This Viral Math Question May Stump You Until You Focus On The Order Of Operations

A viral math question that seems fairly easy to solve has reportedly stumped a vast number of people.

According to Simple Capacity, “9 – 3 ÷ 1/3 + 1 =?” is the math question that “went viral in Japan after a study found 60 percent of 20 somethings could get the correct answer, down from a rate of 90 percent in the 1980s.”

Can you solve this viral math question?

At first, you may not know exactly where to start. Some people may remember the “left to right” concept of mathematics that applies when solving complex equations. However, there is an additional step to that concept you may forget, or overlook, if you just dive into the equation headfirst.

For instance, say that you did try to solve this viral math question simply by taking it one step at a time.

9 – 3 = 6

6 divided by 1/3 = 18

18 + 1 = 19

Following the frequently misunderstood “left to right” concept may lead you to thinking that the answer is “18.” However, that is incorrect.

What is the correct solution? None other than what many consider the loneliest number — “1.” How?

In order to get the correct solution to this viral math question, you have to remember the mathematical concept known as the “order of operations.” When solving complex equations, remembering the order of operations allows you to solve these types of problems successfully without any complications.

What is the order of the operations? Chances are that you are already familiar with the individual operations of math: addition, multiplication, subtraction, division, etc. Well, according to PurpleMath, the order of operations “states which operations take precedence (are taken care of) before which other operations.”

A popular method for remembering the order of operations — which comes in handy for solving most complex math questions — is “PEMDAS,” or “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” When it comes to the order of operations, that acronym outlines the order that you should follow when solving problems like this confusing viral math question: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction.

I don’t remember how to do PEMDAS.. Me and this 5th grader both doing his work smh we struggling lmao

— dlla (@delilarubio) April 28, 2016

The “left to right” concept refers to when you are faced with terms that use the same operation. For instance, when solving a problem like “9 + 3 + 6,” you will add those numbers from left to right.

Knowing how the order of the operations can work in your favor creates a brand new perspective of the viral math question.

9 – 3 ÷ 1/3 + 1 =?

Keep in mind that subtraction and addition are the last two operations listed in the order. Therefore, the first operation that you should focus on when solving this math problem is the division.

What is the trick to dividing fractions? As discussed by, dividing fractions is actually focused more on multiplication than division. You need to multiply the first term by the reciprocal of the second. When working “3 ÷ 1/3” from left to right, the first term “3” needs to be multiplied by the reciprocal of the fraction “1/3,” which is “3,” or “3/1.”

9 – 9 + 1 =?

From left to right, “9 – 9” equals “0” and “0 + 1” equals “1.”

The same problem could be solved by using a calculator. However, you have to pay close attention to how you input the math question into the calculator. For instance, you have to make sure that you group “1/3” into a set of parentheses, so that the computerized system will keep that fraction grouped together instead of separating the numerator from the denominators. That is why, even if you are using a calculator, at least knowing how to simplify complicated math questions using the order of operations without those devices comes in handy.

like, the math isnt hard, but its gonna be tedious bc you cant really multiply and divide fractions on a four function calculator…

— mari (@fireproofed_zjm) April 28, 2016

There are quite a few popular math questions and confusing math puzzles circulating online — especially via social media — that can be solved by using the order of operations. Focusing on those easy-to-forget math principles and concepts — like the order of operations and “PEMDAS” — can make solving them a lot less stressful.

[Image via Shutterstock]